A Marlboro For a Portrait
“Like guns and cars, cameras are fantasy-machines whose use is addictive. However, despite the extravagances of ordinary language and advertising, they are not lethal…The camera/gun does not kill, so the ominous metaphor seems to be all bluff…Still, there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed. Just as the camera is a sublimation of the gun, to photograph someone is a sublimated murder – a soft murder, appropriate to a sad, frightened time.” – Susan Sontag, ‘On Photography (1977)’
When I ask Ukrainian photographer Artem Nadyozhin what erotics he feels accompany this petit mort, he turns the subject around. “To me, the erotics can be found in the transformation of energy. It is the energy which the subject sends to the cameraman, which is rather a sublimation of love than murder.” Artem roams the streets as neither a killer nor protester, but more of a wanderlust who’s driven by capturing the next moment. Killing some time with his machine of choice. To him, the beauty of photography lies in the process of developing film rolls, the disappointment when seeing fucked up shots, and finding unexpected images. Though he mainly seems to photograph his friends and surroundings, he claims it would be wrong to describe him as a story teller or sentimentalist. No strings attached, so to say.
Pinpointing whether it’s either a person or a scenario that inspires him to shoot, he says: “Usually it’s a person instead of a place or situation. I like to connect with people. If I understand that I might never see a random person again, I need to overcome my fear (and shyness) and ask the stranger if I can take his picture. For example, this guy
walked up to me to ask for a cigarette, and I suggested an honest swap. A Marlboro for a picture.” Yet, one wonders if portraiture can be anything more than an open testimony to our endless efforts to know each other, and our failure to do so. “One portrait can’t describe a personality,” Artem says, “There must be hundreds of image sets that portray an essence.” As we are exposed to thousands of visual references on a daily basis, I’m certain there’s one that’s particularly engraved in his mind; one that got the ball rolling. It was… *drum rolls* Child with Toy Hand Grenade in Central Park by Diane Arbus. And, the last one that made an impression, was an unknown image by Mariam Sitchinava, which he randomly found in his Flickr stream.
NP: Who are your favourite artists?
Artem: Christina Abdeeva, Nan Goldin, Masha Demianova, Ivan Chernichkin, Alexander Chekmenev.
NP: Do you draw any inspiration from movies at all? What directors do you admire?
Artem: Alex van Warmerdam, Coen Brothers, Aki Kaurismäki, Wes Anderson.
NP: What is your favourite colour?
Artem: Anything desaturated up to 81%.
Interview by Jorinde Croese for New-Photographer.com